Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a protected forest area in the northern part of Mumbai. The most interesting thing about this park is its location. It is really an urban jungle – I mean it is a jungle located in the midst of India’s most populous city.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) is a fairly large forest. It covers an area of 104 km2. It is also one of most visited National Parks in the world. SGNP gets over 2 million visitors a year.
The park is famous for its rich flora and fauna. It also houses the 2400 years old Kanheri Buddhist caves. These caves are carved out of rocky cliffs inside the park. Buddhist monks used to live in them.
The Kanheri Caves are believed to have been built between the 9th and the 1st centuries BCE. They used to be an important pilgrimage site and Buddhist learning center.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park has every right to be known as the lungs of Mumbai. It purifies much of the air pollution in the city.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park abounds in wildlife. The park has a small population of leopards. One can also find about 800 types of mauve here. This flower is a native to this park. Karvi or Karvy, another shrub found here, flowers once in 8 years. The blooms cover the forest in a lavender blush. Since the last blooming was in 2008, the shrub is expected to bloom this year.
Because of the thick forest cover provided by Sanjay Gandhi National Park, many wild animals have made it their home. During a trip to the park, you will easily spot wild animals like spotted deer (chital) and monkeys (rhesus macaque and bonnet macaque). There are also a small number of leopards and if you are lucky you will be able to spot at least one of them.
Other wild animals living in the park include porcupines, Indian hares, barking deer, chevrotain (mouse deer), Hanuman or grey langur, sambar deer, Indian flying-fox, and leopard. You will also be able to spot striped hyena or four-horned antelope.
There are crocodiles in the Tulsi Lake. The park has its fair share of poisonous snakes too. There are pythons, cobras, vipers and cat snakes. There are also several species of moths and butterflies. The largest moth is the size of a sparrow.
Since the park is right in the middle of Mumbai, it has always faced many threats due to the conflict between natural and human interests. Residential colonies line the boundary of the park. Since the boundary is poorly fenced, wild animal often venture into human habitations.
What to see?
The Krishnagiri Upavan is a public recreation zone located inside the park. It is easily accessible to tourists. Access to the core areas of the park is restricted. There is a mini zoo inside the Krishnagiri Upavan and tourists can view animals up close. There is also a crocodile park. You will be able to find crocodiles of various sizes here. The lion and tiger safaris are extremely popular with tourists. These safaris take visitors through the natural habitats of these animals. The lion safari is a 20 minute ride through a fenced forest area in a caged bus. Sanjay Gandhi National Park has about 25 lions and lionesses; during the safari the visitors will be able to spot at least some of them. The tigers are also confined in fenced areas toured by the buses.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park is quite popular with rock climbing enthusiasts. While you are inside the park, don’t forget to board the narrow gauge train. It takes visitors through areas of tourist interest. Boating is another recreational activity. Visitors can rent the pedal powered boats that can accommodate two persons. There are two watch towers that provide panoramic views of the park.